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Tyson Foods Says it Will Stop Using Human Antibiotics on its Chicken

The meat giant is one in the latest of a series of high-profile companies to announce intentions to move toward more natural food production.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The natural food trend in restaurants and Americans' dining habits is catching up to Tyson Foods. The Arkansas-based meat processor has announced its intention to eliminate human antibiotics from its chickens by September 2017, according to the Associated Press.

Tyson, which is the second largest processor of chicken, beef and pork in the world, said that this would apply to domestic, American chicken flocks only. They currently do not plan to follow suit with its other meats, but are said to be exploring those options. "For other proteins, the animals in the cattle, hog and turkey supply chain, we want to get to reducing human-use antibiotics on the farm as well but we don't have a time frame," Christine Daugherty, Tyson's vice president of sustainable food production, told the Associated Press.

Tyson is beginning this slow phase-out of human antibiotics in response to concerns that the use of the drugs contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is ultimately harmful to humans (and chickens alike). Others warn, however, that discontinuing the use of the drugs will may have a damaging effect on the health of the flocks if other safeguards are not put in place. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals asserts that chickens must be raised in better living conditions if the antibiotics regimen is removed. Suzanne McMillan from the ASPCA's Farm Animal Welfare Campaign stated, "If animal welfare is not addressed in conjunction with pulling back the drugs, this could actually be a very dangerous move for birds and ultimately for consumers."

Tyson's move to change its policies comes on the heels of recent announcements by two powerful players in the fast food world: last month, McDonald's announced its intention to cease using chicken treated with human antibiotics. Earlier this week, Chipotle announced that it was banning all genetically modified ingredients from its menus.